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The Significance of the 
Transylvania Company 


American History 

Archibald Henderson 

President The Transylvanians 


Delivered at the Transylvania Memorial Celebration, 
Boonesborough, Kentucky, October 12, 1935. 


Digitized by the Internet Archive 
in 2012 with funding from 

University of Illinois UrbaRa-Charnpaign 

* ■ - ■ * .. 

The Significance of the 
Transylvania Company 


American History 


Archibald Henderson, Ph.D., Litt.D., D.C.L., LL.D. 

President The Transylvanians 


Author The Conquest of the Old Southwest, The Star of Empire, 
Washington's Southern Tour, The Creative Forces in 
Westward Expansion, The Transylvania Company 
and the Founding of Henderson, Ken- 
tucky, Isaac Shelby, etc., etc. 





Clio, the muse of history, is cryptic and impassive. She seeks not to 
justify herself, but calmly and patiently awaits the gradual disclosure 
of truth through the exhaustive research of the historical investigator. 
In the case of the activities of the Transylvania Company, the events we 
celebrate today have had to wait one hundred and sixty years for just 
and adequate commemoration at the hands of posterity. The far-flung 
activities of this great corporation are evidenced in the participation in 
these exercises today of the representatives of four great states, North 
Carolina, Virginia, Tennessee and Kentucky, and of the aboriginal inhab- 
itants of our soil, the red men known as the American Indian. We welcome 
this day, the culmination of objective research, when we can all unite with 
fair minds and full hearts in paying honor to one of the prime creative 
and constructive forces in the opening of the West to the white man's 
civilization during the second half of the eighteenth century. 

Today the proprietors of the Transylvania Company, conspicuous rep- 
resentatives of the first families of Virginia, North Carolina and Scotland, 
move upon the stage of the world's theater, into the spotlight of history. 
Today the world of our fancy is peopled again with the mighty figures of 
an heroic age: jurists and statemakers, hunters, and pioneers, way-breakers 
and Indian fighters, colonizers and commonwealth builders. These men whom 
we honor today struck a mighty blow for the advance of the white man's 
civilization. They were the crest and foremost fringe of that mobile wave 
which welled up from the fountain source of American liberty, the North 
Carolina of Mecklenburg and Halifax, the Virginia of Richmond and Wil- 
liamsburg, the region of the later Revolutionary glory of Guilford Court- 
house, King's Mountain and Yorktown. They swept irresistibly through 
the "high-swung gateway" of the Cumberland, peopled a bloody ground, 
marred by internecine aboriginal strife, at the risk of their lives and for- 
tunes, and held this fair region of lovely levels, this Great Meadow, inviolate 
within the circle of its protective wall until Kentucky had weathered the 
storms of border warfare and at last entered triumphantly into a union 
of free and independent states. Perhaps the very flowers bloom here with 
brighter luster for the blood they shed here. 

I sometimes think that never blows so red 
The rose as where some buried Caesar bled. 

Within the framework of unimpeachable historic evidence, let us seek 
today in realistic spirit the truth concerning the pioneer beginnings of 
Kentucky. In the antiquated and out-of-date histories of this region, from 
Filson to Collins, precious and indispensable as they are, are embalmed 
innumerable errors of fact and interpretation which the exhaustive labors 
of contemporary historians have in part corrected and are still engaged 
in correcting. None of these distortions of the truth is so persistent and 
incorrigible, in the face of incontrovertible evidence, as the claim that the 
nomadic pioneers, of whom the justly famous Daniel Boone is the type- 
figure, were the prime founders and sole begetters of Kentucky. Boone 



October Ik, 1935 


I desire to extend to the Transyivanians and to 
the members of other patriotic societies gathered with you 
today my heartiest congratulations upon this occasion. You 
are assembled to do honor to that memorable group of men who 
founded Transyivania; men of divers gifts and varied genius — 
Henderson, Williams, the Harts, Hogg, Johnaton, Bullock, and' 
Luttrell, and to that great axeman, Daniel Boone, and! his as- 
sociates. To these men who tlsze 1 the "Transylvania Trail" 
and who held the "Transylvania Fort", we are indebted beyond 
measure, not only for the nurture of democracy in transmontane 
America, but for the holding of it safe during the long struggle 
for liberty on the seaboard. 

A3 I return from a Journey to that farther West, 
made possible only by the efforts and sacrifices of men of 
like character, I appreciate the more vividly the magnitude 
of the task accomplished by your fat.'iers. In these com- 
memorative exercises you pay homage to ail American pioneers, 
both of that time and of the present; for it is the "pioneer 
spirit" whicn you in fact honor. Those men "blazed the trail" 
and "held the fort". I know of no better motto for today 
than this which the Transyivanians have handed down to us. 


himself, with the devout assistance of Filson, widely disseminated the 
extravagantly expressed claim that the history of the Western country had 
been "his" history, and voiced the pious faith that "an overruling Provi- 
dence seems to have watched over his life, and preserved him to be the 
humble instrument in settling one of the fairest portions of the new world." 
In his appeal to the Kentucky legislature in 1812, the world-famous path- 
finder and Indian fighter, the living witness of his own immortality, goes 
even further and, under delusions of grandeur, naively says that he "may 
claim, without arrogance, to have been the author of the principal means 
which contributed to the settlement of a country on the Mississippi and 
its waters, which now produces the happiness of a million of his fellow- 
creatures and of the exploring and acquisition of a country that will make 
happy many millions in time to come." 1 

Surely no more "arrogant" claim has ever been put forward in the entire 
course of American history. One notes with amusement that in his narra- 
tive, drafted by the turgid Filson, the self-centered Boone mentions neither 
the Transylvania Company nor any of its nine partners by name, with 
one incidental exception; and casually neglects any reference to the Legis- 
lature of Transylvania which made history here on May 23-27, 1775! A 
larger horizon, an objective realism, and a clearer conception of historic 
causation enable us to correct the self-deluding fantasies of the ancient 
and worthy pioneer. Today we realize that the truly constructive forces 
in the opening of the West were not only "long hunters" of wild game, 
roving bands of lawless squatters, and reckless contestants for place with 
the red men, but also captains of industry, exponents of big business, 
investors on a grand scale in furs and goods and lands. In a George 
Washington, a Patrick Henry, an Andrew Lewis and a Thomas Walker 
of Virginia, a George Morgan, a George Croghan and a Samuel Wharton 
of Pennsylvania, a James Hogg and a William Johnston of Scotland, a 
Richard Henderson and a John Williams of North Carolina, we discern 
the type of men who engineer and direct the tidal movements of population 
and capital, in order to open up, at one mighty, decisive stroke, vast areas, 
rich mineral deposits, immense natural resources. In Washington, the 
great land speculator, Jefferson of the Louisiana purchase, Astor of 
Astoria fame, Polk of the Mexican war, Roosevelt of the Panama canal, 
James J. Hill, the railroad baron: we recognize the typical genius of America, 
the promoter and expansionist on the grand scale. 

l ( -iih Archibald Henderson: The Creative Forces in Westward Expansion, J 
': A , October, 1914. It is incontestable that Boone himself was modest regarding 

achievements. The extravagant, even "arrogant" claims attributed to him were, in the 
opinion, actually advanced by devoted enthusiasts, self-interested historians and 
hers, and loyal friends who drafted amazingly egoistic petitions, wholly out of char- 
acter as to Boone, to which were attached the signature of the constitutionally modest pioneer, 
"autobiography," drafted by Filson, was a work invaluable to histor} foi il collection 
and Incidents; but many important features oi Boone's career were slurred over or 
omitted. Gilbert Imlay, traveler and historian, promoted Filson' "build-up" of Boone's fame, 
doubtless in attempted partial payment, through propaj his debt to Boone for ten 

■ land, not a penny oi the price of which he ever paid. Judge John I 
and other admirers of Boone, who di to the Kentucky Legislature and to 

- on his behalf, with characteristically Southern exaggeration and oratorical style, 
made ^ the neglected old pioneer which the truly n B one, if left to himself, 

would never have drean Ivancing. However, these claims were made doubtless with 

Boone's assent and over his own signature, although drafted by otl 

Indeed, we shall create a distorted perspective of our history unless we 
take account of these two mutually complementary impulses which gave 
character and significance to the progressive American civilization of the 
eighteenth century. The less important, but most frequently glorified, of 
these two determinative impulses of pioneer civilization was the passion- 
ately inquisitive instinct of the hunter, the traveler, the explorer. These 
nomadic wanderers, these restless hunters in the twilight zone of the 
uncharted West, taking their lives in their hands, fared boldly forth to a 
fabled hunter's paradise in the far-away wilderness, because they were 
driven by the irresistible urge of a Ponce de Leon, a De Soto, and a Balboa, 
to discover the truth about the unknown lands and seas beyond. The indi- 
gent hunters and lawless squatters, fleeing the dread incidence of taxation 
at home, fondly imagined that, despite royal proclamations, colonial treaties, 
and solemnly marked dividing lines, a tomahawk blaze on a tree, the laying 
of a pen of logs, the planting of some fruit trees or a few rows of corn 
gave them a pre-emptive right to any trans-Allegheny tract of land in 

A deeper, a more primal determinative impulse than this was the acquisi- 
tive passion of the land-seeker. Here was a vast, unappropriated region 
in the interior of the continent to be had for the taking, which served as 
lure and inspiration to the man daring enough to risk his all in its acquisi- 
tion. The pioneering promoter and colonizer became a powerful constructive 
force in Westward expansion. Groups of wealthy or well-to-do persons, in 
Pennsylvania, Virginia and North Carolina organized themselves into land 
companies — Indiana, Illinois, Wabash, Vandalia, Ohio, Transylvania, Loyal, 
Greenbrier — for the establishment of colonies and speculation in Western 
lands. Whether acting under the authority of crown grants or daringly 
proceeding on their own initiative, the land companies gave stability and 
permanence to settlements otherwise hazardous and insecure. 

Indeed, some present day historians of eminence choose to ignore or dis- 
regard Boone's claim to be the "principal instrument in the opening of the 
West. 2 The attempt has even been made to discredit America's most gla- 
morous story of pioneering adventure, by relegating it to the domain of 
legend. 3 In one of the most brilliant historical works ever penned by an 
American, the late Dr. Clarence Walworth Alvord says: 

2 The citation of several conspicuous examples will suffice here. In his "The War of 
Independence," (Houghton Mifflin Co., 1929), one of the leading authorities on the American 
Revolution, the late Professor Claude H. Van Tyne of the University of Michigan, omits the 
name of Boone. In their standard work, "The Growth of the American Republic" (Oxford 
University Press, 1930), Professor Samuel Eliot Morison of Harvard University and Professor 
Henry Steele Commager of New York University make no mention of Boone. In his masterly 
work in two volumes, "The Mississippi Valley in British Politics" (Arthur H. Clark Co., 
1917), the late Professor Clarence Walworth Alvord of the University of Illinois, in speaking 
of Richard Henderson, says: "His agent in exploring the region of Kentucky was the well 
known pioneer and hunter Daniel Boone, whom fickle tradition has chosen to apotheosize as 
the prototype of western state makers of all generations." 

3 Two essays by the late Clarence W. Alvord present this view: Daniel Boone, American 
Mercury, vol. viii, No. 31 (July, 1926); and The Daniel Boone Myth, Journal of the Illinois 
State Historical Society, vol xix, Nos. 1 and 2 (April-July, 1926). The former article opens 
with the words: "Few names are dearer to Americans than that of Daniel Boone; his memory 
has become a national inheritance, a tradition as sacred to the people of the West as that 
touching the Revolutionary Fathers. Unfortunately, scientific research offers no support for his 
fame, which is a myth, like that of William Tell, conceived in caprice, reared by uncritical 
history, and perpetuated by popular sentimentality." 


In the unbroken wilderness across the mountain, the speculators were 
in advance of the actual home-maker. The historic muse has always 
delighted in singing of the daring deeds of the explorer wandering 
through the dark forest or paddling his canoe on unknown rivers; and 
even the homesteader, with family goods packed in his prairie schooner, 
has had his exploits chanted in majestic measures; but few have noted 
the fact that both explorer and homesteader were frequently only the 
advance agents of the speculator who dreamed of large enterprises in 
land, exploitation — that the Daniel Boones of the wilderness were only 
the pawns of some Richard Henderson. From that distant date when 
Joliet and La Salle first found their way into the heart of the great 
West, up to the present day when far-off Alaska is in the throes of 
development, "big business" has been engaged in western speculation. 
The Mississippi valley has been explored, cleared and settled in large 
measure through the enterprise and financial boldness of moneyed men 
who have staked fortunes in opening up the successive lines of the 
American frontier. 4 

The views of those historians who would deprive Boone of his rightful 
meed of praise and relegate the romantic story of his dramatic career to 
the limbo of legend and myth, I neither share nor support. Boone, as type- 
figure of hundreds of men of similar careers and accomplishments, must 
be accorded his just due, but no more, for the important part he played 
in the opening and winning of the West. Other forces, less romantic in 
appeal, but more permanent in their effects, were likewise concerned in 
the great work of conquering the wilderness. ■> In the clearer light of objec- 
tive study and unprejudiced research, we discern that there were two main 

4 The Mississippi Valley in British Politics, i, 85-6. 

5 At various times the writer has, both publicly and privately, combatted the effort to rob 
Boone of his just due. Following the appearance in 1926 of Professor Alvord's two articles, 
cited above, the author personally wrote him in vigorous remonstrance. In a series of syndi- 
cated articles by the writer, one bore the title "Daniel Boone, the Trail Blazer," with sub-title 
supplied by the newspaper headliner: "Doctor Henderson condemns attempts of some moderns 
to bt-little Boone's well-earned fame. Answers recent attack of Professor Clarence Alvord in 
American, Mercury." In that article, which appeared on February 19, 1928, in the Raleigh News 
and Observer, Greensboro Daily News, Charlotte Observer, Durham Morning Herald, Winston- 
Salem Journal, Asheville Citizen, and other newspapers, the writer said: "Although there is an 
effort on foot today to depreciate and minimize our greatest American heroes, and Boone has 
recently been the subject of attack in the American Mercury by Professor Clarence W. Alvord, 
there is no likelihood that Boone's fame will be seriously impaired." In an article, "A New 
Daniel Boone Emerges from Myth," in the New York Times, Magazine Section, September 4, 
1 ( }2~, the writer quotes the following words of Alvord: "Clio has often heard our historians 
sing of the deeds of the stalwart pioneers with guns and axes following buffalo traces into the 
West; she has been obliged to listen to the hymns of the squatter with family and household 
goods in his Conestoga wagon trekking across the prairies; but less frequently has there reached 
her ears the epic of big business whose devotees have been present at the opening up of every 
new territory and whose pervading and powerful influence has been experienced as wilderness 
gave way to frontier and frontier to civilized settlement." Upon this, the writer then comments; 
As with Lincoln, Boone's place in the popular heart is too secure to be shaken by 
the vagaries of the historian. The ruthless iconoclast, demanding justice for the real 
leaders oi the Westward movement, might just as well save his breath. The popular 
heart was never known to follow the dictates oi mere reason. The author quoted above 
argues in vain in challenging "the naive symbolism of the Daniel Boone myth": 
"The unlearned who love concrete symbolism will continue, no doubt, to 

constructive instrumentalities in the opening of the trans-Allegheny region: 
corporate enterprise in the Transylvania Company, and individual initiative 
in the bands of roving hunters, squatters, and pioneers, of whom Boone 
was type-figure. These forces proved mutually co-operative and comple- 
mentary. Each was indispensable to the other. The land company organized 
in North Carolina in the early seventeen sixties, under the title of Richard 
Henderson and Company, began its operations by engaging an expert hunter 
to make a reconnaissance of the vast terra incognita of the West. Their 
inevitable choice was Daniel Boone, well known to all three members of 
the company, two of whom were practising lawyers in the Rowan County 
and Superior courts which met at Salisbury, my native town, where Daniel's 
father, Squire, often presided as one of the "worshipful justices." 6 It is 
one of the singular idiosyncrasies of localism that no Kentucky historian, 
so far as I am aware, mentions the early explorations of Tennessee, made 
for Richard Henderson and Company, by Boone, Callaway, and Scaggs. 
The Tennessee historians, Haywood, Ramsey and Putnam, fully informed 
as to historical events in their own state, give explicit accounts of these 
explorations commissioned by the land company — as do many other writers. 
Boone and Callaway explored the lands east of the mountains; but in 1763 
Scaggs passed through Cumberland Gap and in 1765 penetrated to the very 
heart of Tennessee, fixing his station at the lick afterwards popularly known 
as Mansker's Lick." 

The three partners of Richard Henderson and Company, preoccupied by 
official business and the rapidly developing Regulator revolt, were slow in 
taking action upon the reports of the Tennessee lands made to them by 
Boone, Callaway and Scaggs. The matter was finally brought to a head 
when in the Virginia Gazette of December 1, 1768, they read the astounding 
news that "the Six Nations and all their tributaries have granted a vast 
extent of country to his majesty, and the Proprietaries of Pennsylvania, 
and settled an advantageous boundary line between their hunting country 
and this, and the other colonies to the Southward as far as the Cherokee 

cherish the name of the simple soul who exemplifies so fully their ideas of 
historical causation and typifies so fittingly their conception of the common 
man in history. That they will continue to repeat the story of Daniel Boone 
need not disturb the public's ignorance of the past; yet it may be regretted 
that in choosing a western hero, caprice had not hit upon a figure nearer 
the centre of the moving forces. Frontiersmen like Boone were romantic, 
but so were those who had the vision of empire builders. Why did the people 
select a fictitious Aaron for honor, when in Morgan, Henderson, Walker and 
others they might have paid homage to a would-be Moses." 
The writer who, during the past thirty-odd years, has delivered addresses and written essays 
almost without number on Daniel Boone, owns what is believed to be the largest collection of 
Booneana in private hands extant. On the eve of this very celebration the writer delivered a 
glowing and extended tribute to Boone before the Madison County Historical Society, Rich- 
mond, Ky., October 11, 1936. It has long been the writer's intention to prepare an adequate 
and reliable biography of Boone, since none now exists. Everyone interested in Daniel Boone is 
requested to communicate with the writer, at Chapel Hill, N. C, in particular to convey 
information regarding any new, unpublished materials about Boone. 

6 Consult Archibald Henderson, The Star of Empire (Durham, N. C, 1919) and The 
Conquest of the Old Southwest (New York, 1920). 

7 Consult Archibald Henderson, North Carolina and Kentucky: A Study in Origins, Register 
Kentucky State Historical Society, January, 1928. 


River, for which they received the most valuable present in goods and dollars 
that was ever given at any conference since the settlement of America." 8 

This news was deeply resented by the Cherokee tribe, since the land south 
of the Ohio river and east of the Kentucky was territory which they had 
claimed from time immemorial. Col. John Stuart, Superintendent for Indian 
affairs in the Southern Department, who for several years had been busily 
acting for the crown in establishing a western boundary between the whites 
and the Indians, vigorously protested to Sir William Johnson, Superintendent 
for Indian Affairs in the Northern Department, who had negotiated the 
treaty of Fort Stanwix, against this sale by the Six Nations of land which 
he, Stuart, as agent of the crown, had already acknowledged in solemn 
treaty to be the property of the Cherokee. From this time, it is surmised, 
dates the openly expressed desire of the Cherokee to sell their title to the 
trans-Allegheny lands of Tennessee and Kentucky to which they laid claim. 

Boone had long since heard of the great Ouasioto or Cumberland Gap from 
Scaggs and the Tennessee long hunters, and from his neighbor on the upper 
Yadkin, Christopher Gist, who had explored Kentucky for the Ohio company 
in 1751. But Boone himself had never passed through the lofty gap, and 
was eager to enter upon the great adventure. At this crucial moment the 
horse peddler, John Findlay, Boone's old friend of the Braddock campaign, 
wandered into the valley of the Yadkin and visited Boone at his home 
on Dutchman's Creek. The moment was propitious; for Richard Henderson 
and Company had long waited for Boone to make a reconnaissance and 
survey of the Kentucky trans-Allegheny. At this time Boone was heavily 
in debt to his attorneys, Henderson and Williams, both of them members 
of the land company, for legal services; and to other prominent citizens of 
Salisbury. The testimony, from North Carolina, Tennessee, Kentucky and 
Missouri — from Hall and Lossing, Putnam and Peck, Martin and Monette, 
Rose and Roosevelt — is cumulative and overwhelming that the two years' 
exploration of Kentucky and Tennessee undertaken by the party of six men, 
headed by Daniel Boone, with John Findlay as their guide, was made on 
behalf of Richard Henderson and Company. Boone himself states that he 
visited Kentucky in 1769 "for the purpose of examining the country" and 
"to recruit his shattered circumstances"; but he was under pledge to Judge 
Henderson to keep secret the ulterior motive for the exploration — a pledge 
the honorable pioneer and explorer never violated. This may explain in part 
why Boone, in his autobiography, omits to mention that the long survey of 
Tennessee and Kentucky which he and his companions made in 1769-1771 
was commissioned by the North Carolina land company. 

On his return to North Carolina in 1771, Boone's glowing description of 
Kentucky in a report to the land company, as stated by an old chronicler, 
"soon excited in others the spirit of an enterprise which in point of magni- 
tude and peril, as well as constancy and heroism displayed in its execution, 
has never been paralleled in the history of America." In 1772 the Watauga 
settlers, perturbed about the stability of their tenure, obtained from the 
Cherokee tribe, for a valuable consideration, a 10 years' lease of the lands 
which they occupied. From James Robertson, a leader in the Watauga settle- 
ment, Boone now learned that the Cherokee, excited by the example of the 

8 For this wKole period consult Archibald Henderson, Conquest ol the Old Southwest 
(Century Co., N. Y., 1920). 


great compensation made to the Six Nations at Fort Stanwix, were willing, 
for a handsome consideration, to sell their title to the trans-Allegheny lands 
of Tennessee and Kentucky south of the Ohio. At this time Judge Henderson 
was laboriously occupied with the affairs of the court which did not expire 
until 1773. The following year, realizing the magnitude of the proposed 
real estate transaction, he re-organized the land company, known as Richard 
Henderson and Company, into a larger corporation known as the Louisa 
Company; and once again, on January 6, 1775, into a new company with 
nine partners under the name of the Transylvania Company, sometimes 
freely translated as the "Backwoods Company." 9 This momentous action is 
the first step in the chain of historic causation which we commemorate today 
— in a tablet, the patriotic gift of the National Society of the Colonial Dames 
of America in North Carolina, Virginia, Tennessee and Kentucky. 

The glowing reports of the trans-Allegheny region, brought back by 
numerous hunters, travelers, and explorers, caused great excitement in 
Pennsylvania, Virginia, North Carolina and Tennessee, and inspired various 
excursions into Kentucky by exploratory and colonizing parties in 1773 and 
1774. A controversial issue obtrudes itself at this point. The Transylvania 
Company has been denigrated by some of the earlier and a few of the 
later Kentucky historians as a soulless corporation composed of capitalist 
land-plungers intent solely upon material gain. In the interest of truth 
and justice let us recall that this company honorably bought the land of 
the Cherokee tribe and paid for it on the nail. Present-day historians point 
out with ironic amusement that the pioneers who attempted to occupy and 
settle Kentucky in 1773 and 1774 — Boone and his party who suffered a 
bloody repulse, the McAfees, Harrod and his band from the Monongahela, 
and others — were unlawfully encroaching upon lands reserved to the Indian 
tribes by the British crown. For all their bravery and daring, they were 
in actuality military invaders: free-booters upon the Indian lands, in the 
correct sense of the word land-grabbers, guilty of armed invasion, illegal 
entry and unlawful occupancy. They were violating the royal proclamation 
of 1763, the orders in council of April 7, 1773, or the detailed regulations 
of the privy council passed on February 3, 1774, and transmitted to the 
governors of all the southern colonies, all of which imperial orders forbade, 
in explicit terms, settlement to the west of the boundary line marked out 
by Col. John Stuart under royal direction and with the co-operation of 
coionial governments and Indian tribes. 10 Under the new royal policy of 
1773, the disposal of western lands, formerly a colonial function, became 
an imperial prerogative. Had the Transylvania Company not purchased the 
Cherokee title to the trans-Allegheny territory at the treaty of Sycamore 
Shoals, in March, 1775, there can be no doubt that the warlike squatters — 
the Boones, the Bryans, the McAfees, the Harrods, the Logans, the Calks — 
would have been either forcibly dispossessed by the British government, 
unless they desired to bid for the land at open auction, at double the former 
price as a minimum offer, or else driven from the country or more prob- 
ably exterminated by the fierce bands of Indians of various tribes, chiefly 

9 Consult Archibald Henderson, The Transylvania Company and the Founding of Henderson, 
Kentucky (Louisville, 1929). 

10 Consult Archibald Henderson, A Pre-Revolutionary Revolt in the Old Southwest, 
Mississippi Valley Historical Review, September, 1930. 


Shawnee and Cherokee, which roamed at will through this twilight zone of 
the dark and bloody ground. 11 

We celebrate today the treaty of Sycamore Shoals. It was, both in mag- 
nitude and in importance, as judged by beneficent results, the greatest real 
estate transaction ever negotiated by private individuals with the Indians 
in American history. Today the entire world stands aghast in consternation 
and horror over the ruthless, barbaric rape of Ethiopia by a supposedly 
civilized power, in defiance of the condemnation of the League of Nations 
and disregard of the enlightened sentiment of mankind. Compare with this 
the honorable action of the Transylvania Company in their relations with the 
Cherokee. Had the Transylvania Company so desired, they might have re- 
cruited a small army of pioneers in North Carolina, Virginia and Pennsyl- 
vania, and forcibly occupied this fair and coveted region, as Boone, Harrod 
and other land-grabbers had attempted to do, with cynical disregard of the 
rights and title of the aboriginal claimants of the soil. On the contrary, 
Judge Henderson negotiated a treaty with the Cherokee unparalleled in fair- 
ness and justice in the long and often discreditable history of the relations of 
the white man with the red. The Transylvania Company paid the Cherokee 
the same price for the trans-Allegheny region purchased by them which Great 
Britain had paid the Six Nations for a similar area. They made the purchase 
on the unofficial advice of Lord Mansfield, the great English jurist, and on the 
basis of the Camden-Yorke opinion, rendered in 1752, and again in 1763, 
by two men later to become Lord Chancellors of Great Britain, to the effect 
that a crown grant was not necessary in order to purchase lands from the 
Indian tribes whether in East India or in North America. The four states 
sponsoring this celebration take pride in erecting here a tablet in commemo- 
ration of the men who negotiated the fair, honorable and epochal purchase 
known to history as the "Great Treaty." 

For his unique and unrivaled knowledge of the trans-Allegheny, Boone 
was, as Frlson puts it, "solicited by a number of North Carolina gentlemen 
* to attend their treaty, to negotiate with them [the Cherokee Indians] 
and mention the boundaries of the purchase." Boone was indispensable in 
arranging the preliminaries of the treaty. But four days before the formal 
negotiations began, Boone had gone on to the agreed-upon rendezvous at 
the Long Island of Holston, having been employed by the Transylvania 
Company, in his own words, "to mark out a road in the best passage from 
the settlement through the wilderness to Kentucky." The marking out of 
the Transylvania Trail, sometimes known as the "wilderness road," by thirty 
axemen headed by Daniel Boone, is a classic performance in early western 
history. '- 

Even if this rough highway, a succession of trails loosely linked together, 
and from Martin's Station onward viable only by pack-horse, was afterwards 
derided as the worst road on the continent, it successfully served a desperate 
need, at a crucial hour in American history. As part of a vast program 
of investment and colonization by the Transylvania Company, this Transyl- 

UConsult Thomas Jefferson, A Summary View of the Rights of British America (Williams- 
burg, 1774), in his collected Writing* (Federal Edition), ii, 85. 

12 Archibald Henderson, I). unci Boone and the American Pioneer, Century Magazine, 
September, 1920; Kent Summer, 1934; ibid, Transylvania Memorial 

a, Summer, 1935, Archibald Henderson, guest editor. 


vania Trail, cut out by Boone and the thirty axemen, was an indispensable 
factor in the project for the occupation of the trans- Allegheny area. All 
honor to the memory of the valiant pioneers, Boone, Callaway, Stoner, and 
the other axemen, to the brave Susannah Boone Hays, to the negro man 
and the negro woman, who braved the perils of the path — immortalized in 
one of the tablets on this monument, the patriotic gift of the National 
Society of the Daughters of the American Revolution in North Carolina, 
Virginia, Tennessee and Kentucky. 

To an historian and a citizen of another state, one of the most extraordi- 
nary of "lacunae" in Kentucky history, an omission almost inexplicable, 
is the failure on the part of her historians to appreciate the statesman-like 
proceedings of the Legislature of Transylvania which took place here, under 
the gigantic elm, May 23-27, 1775. Had these proceedings taken place in 
Virginia or Massachusetts, they would have been heralded to the world as 
vital enunciations in the advance of civil and religious liberty, democracy, 
and the human spirit. What paeans of praise, surely not undeserved, have 
sounded to the world for these sentiments in the Virginia Declaration of 
Rights, drafted by George Mason and passed by the Virginia assembly on 
June 12, 1776: 

That all power is by God and Nature vested in, and consequently 
derived from, the people. * * * 

That all men should enjoy the fullest toleration in the exercise of 
religion, according to the dictates of conscience, unpunished and unre- 
strained by the magistrate, unless, under color of religion, any man 
disturb the peace, the happiness, or the safety of society. 
I beg you to note that the president of the Transylvania legislature and 
the proprietors of Transylvania, in conjunction with a committee of this 
legislature, by more than twelve months miraculously anticipated George 
Mason and the Virginia Assembly in the explicit expression of these identical 
views. In his address to the House of Delegates of Transylvania, on May 24, 
1775, Judge Henderson says: 

If any doubt remain amongst you with respect to the force and efficacy 
of whatever laws you now, or hereafter make, be pleased to consider 
that all power is originally in the people; therefore make it their 
interest, by impartial and beneficial laws, and you may be sure of their 
inclination to see them enforced. 

The laws derive force and efficacy from our mutual consent, and that 
consent results from our virtue, interest, and convenience. 
In the Declaration of Rights, officially described as the "compact between 
the proprietors and the people," resolve four of the contract or agreement 

That there be perfect religious freedom and general toleration; Pro- 
vided, that the propagators of any doctrine or tenets, evidently tending 
to the subversion of our laws, shall, for such conduct, be amenable to, 
and punished by, the civil courts. 

It is well for Kentuckians to remember with pride that the distinguished 
historian of the American Revolution, the late Professor Claude H. Van 
Tyne, said of the presiding officer of this legislature that, from one who, 
under royal rule, boldly asserted that the source of all political power is 
the people and that "laws derive force and efficacy from our mutual consent," 
Western democracy, thus born in the wilderness, was "taking its first politi- 


cal lesson." For this self-same reason, Benson J. Lossing, seventy-eight 
years earlier, dubbed Richard Henderson the "political father of Kentucky." 
It is well for Kentuckians to remember with pride, also, that the Transyl- 
vania statute of religious liberty anticipated Thomas Jefferson's bill for 
religious freedom, which he ranked in importance with the Declaration 
of Independence, by eleven years. 

Furthermore, it cannot, I venture to suggest, be successfully disputed that, 
so far as that was possible, within the continental framework of the Ameri- 
can system, the Legislature of Transylvania took the first bold step toward 
the establishment of an independent colony. In his address to the Legislature 
of Transylvania, Judge Henderson declared: 

We have a right to make * * * laws [for the regulation of our con- 
duct] without giving offense to Great Britain, or any of the American 
colonies, without disturbing the repose of any society or community 
under heaven. 

From the outset, as contemporary records clearly indicate, the Transyl- 
vania leaders planned to establish an independent colony. In the spring of 
1775 Col. William Preston, Surveyor General of Fincastle County, Virginia, 
excitedly reported to Washington that Henderson planned to "set up an 
independent government." Washington, who about that period was declaring 
that he "abhorred independence," naturally viewed with alarm the mysterious 
designs of these strange libertarians. By September 25, 1775, when Jefferson, 
Hancock, Adams, and the other members of the Continental Congress were 
laboring earnestly for what Jefferson called the "most permanent harmony 
with Great Britain," the proprietors of Transylvania were earnestly seeking 
of this very Congress official recognition of their wilderness commonwealth 
as the fourteenth American colony, which in fact at that moment it actually 
was. 15 

In June, 1775, when Capt. James Jack delivered in Philadelphia a copy 
of the Mecklenburg resolves, passed at Charlotte, North Carolina, on May 31, 
making a contingent declaration of independence of Great Britain, he was 
sent home by the North Carolina delegates, Hooper, Hewes and Caswell, with 
a message of commendation and an appreciative pat on the back, but the 
decisive admonition that the proceedings of the Mecklenburg patriots were 
premature. In the autumn of 1775 the complexion of the Continental Con- 
gress remained unchanged. When James Hogg, emissary from Transylvania 
to the Congress, interviewed John and Samuel Adams, he found them averse 
to recognizing such dangerous republicans, intent upon independence. I quote 
from the still largely unpublished diary of John Adams, entry of October 
25, 1775: 

Last evening Mr. Hewes, of North Carolina, introduced to my name- 
sake, Samuel Adams, and me a Mr. Hogg from that colony, a proprietor 
of Transylvania, a late purchase from the Cherokees upon the Ohio. He 
is an associate with Henderson, who was lately one of the associate 
judges of North Carolina, who is president of the convention in Tran- 

l? Consult Archibald Henderson, Transylvania, in The Century (Quarterly), Autumn, 1929; 
Transylvania and the Founding of Henderson, Kentucky, Kentucky Progress Magazine, March, 
1932; and two monographs, "Richard Henderson and the Occupation of Kentucky," Mississippi 
Valley Historical Review, vol i, p. 341, and Memorial Celebration- in Honor of the Transyl- 
vania Company and the Founding of Henderson at Henderson, k'x., October 11, 1929 
(Henderson, Ky., 1929). 


sylvania. The proprietors have no grant from the crown, nor from any 

colony, are within the limits of Virginia and North Carolina, by their 

charters, which bound those colonies in the South sea. They are charged 

with republican notions and Utopian schemes. 

John Adams, a loyalist in October, 1775, evidently had little tolerance then 
for the "republican notions" of the Transylvanians. The giory of Transyl- 
vania is imperishably preserved in Hogg's historic letter to the proprietors, 
recording the history of his mission, in which he explicitly states that John 
Adams warned him that, in view of the efforts then making toward recon- 
ciliation between the colonies and the king, "the taking under our [the Con- 
tinental Congress'] protection a body of people who have acted in defiance 
of the king's proclamation will be looked on as a confirmation of that 
independent spirit with which we are daily reproached." 

While Transylvania failed of official recognition by North Carolina, Vir- 
ginia or the Continental Congress as the fourteenth American colony, the 
company which founded it played a dominant role in establishing permanent 
white settlement in Kentucky in 1775. 

The erection of the Transylvania fort, the most powerful stockaded settle- 
ment in Kentucky, and its successful defense against fierce assault in 1778 — 
by Richard Callaway, Daniel Boone, Simon Kenton, Samuel Henderson, and 
their compeers — was of national significance through the salvation to America 
of Kentucky and the trans-Allegheny West — and so deserves commemoration 
in Revolutionary annals along with Lexington and Bunker's Hill, King's 
Mountain, and Guilford Courthouse. 

The conquest of the Northwest, by daring frontiersmen under George 
Rogers Clark, was made possible by the stabilization of white settlement 
in Kentucky, of which the backbone was the Transylvania Fort at Boones- 

First of all, the establishment of the mimic republic of Watauga in 1772; 
second, the negotiation of the "Great Treaty" at Sycamore Shoals by the 
Transylvania Company, the marking of the Transylvania Trail for this 
company by Boone and the thirty axemen, and the erection and successful 
defense of the Transylvania Fort; and third, the meteoric campaign of Clark 
in the Northwest: these constitute the indissoluble trinity of historic causa- 
tion in the winning of the West and the conquest of the Northwest — three 
in one and one in three. 


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